January 14, 2021
Praying Without Ceasing
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” These words sum up what the prayer life of a Christ follower looks like. The “pray without ceasing” threw me off at first, because people would think it strange if I never stopped praying. I heard someone say, “praying without ceasing does not mean closing your eyes and putting your head down while driving.” Figured that one out on my own. In his book Max on Life, Max Lucado shares a great perspective:
Unceasing prayer may sound complicated, but it needn’t be that way. Do this. Change your definition of prayer. Think of prayers less as an activity for God and more as an awareness of God. Seek to live in uninterrupted awareness. Acknowledge his presence everywhere you go. As you stand in line to register your car, think, Thank you, Lord, for being here. In the grocery store as you shop, think, Your presence, my King, I welcome. As you wash the dishes, worship your Maker. Brother Lawrence did. This well-known saint called himself the “lord of all pots and pans.” In his book The Practice of the Presence of God, he wrote:
The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if on my knees at the blessed sacrament.
Besides, it makes more sense to talk to God than mumble to yourself.
How can I find ways to add prayer to daily activities and draw people to Christ?
Take A Look
January 6, 2021
Why Does God Not Answer Our Prayers?
This is one of the most difficult questions asked by Christians. Some ask in anger, but in my experience when posed to me, it is asked in sadness. Something caught my attention recently, that prayers are not answered because we don’t believe God will respond or grant our request. We lack faith. This makes sense, because in my own prayer life there are times when the superficial and casual references I make when coming before God are weak. Perhaps there are times where I don’t believe God will answer.
In his book Bible Answers for Almost All Your Questions, Elmer Towns speaks clearly about questions that challenge Christians. In the following excerpt, Dr. Towns addresses unanswered prayer:
Sometimes it’s because we are asking for things that God has not promised to give us. God has not promised long life to every person, though a few people may live long. So, God may not answer your prayer for a long life. God may also not answer your prayer because you ask God to take away things that He doesn’t want removed. As an illustration, God promises trouble to every person (Job 5:7), so we should pray for wisdom in the midst of our troubles for how to solve them or live with them (James 1:5). But God may not answer your prayer to take away your troubles.
God does not answer prayers when you ask Him to go against His nature. God cannot erase history or make a square circle. God will not make a stone too heavy for Him to lift. A student taking a test cannot pray for an answer if he has not studied and the answer is not on his mind. God doesn’t communicate out of a vacuum.
Sometimes you don’t get your prayers answered because you quit praying too soon. Perhaps God began answering your prayer, but you did not continue asking, so you didn’t get an answer. At other times it is because we don’t have faith (Mark 11:24). Sometimes we don’t ask in Jesus’ name (John 14:14), don’t abide in the Word of God (John 15:7), or don’t pray according to His will (1 John 5:14-15).
Where am I weak in my prayer life and how can I go to God with confidence?
Take A Look
1 Chronicles 4:9,10
December 21, 2020
A Vision For Lost People
As we gather to celebrate the birth of our Savior, it is a good time to take stock of our lives and the gift that God sent. The most magnificent gift of all has changed the lives of many of those around us and we rejoice with family and friends at what the Lord has done. We have the peace that comes from a personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ. But what about those who do not know Christ? We should consider and pray for the family, friends, neighbors and even strangers who need to hear the Gospel.
Take time to inventory your own spiritual gift(s) and put them to work. Remember what the Lord has done for you, share your testimony and invite people to church.
Greg Laurie says it well in a devotional he provided at harvest.org. Remember, Pastor Laurie has a gift for evangelism and his writings reflect his passion for reaching the lost.
So Sometimes as Christians, we see nonbelievers as the enemy. Remember, we were all nonbelievers at one time. Nonbelievers are not the enemy; they’re under the control of the Enemy.
The Bible says that “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4 NLT).
So, let’s understand that and see nonbelievers as Jesus sees them: as sheep without a shepherd. We want to see them come to believe in Jesus.
Why not set a goal for the coming year to lead 10 people to Christ? Maybe you’re thinking, “But what if I don’t meet that goal? What if I only lead three people to Christ?”
That is still good. It’s better than not leading anyone to Christ. And it’s better than no goal at all. Look for opportunities to start evangelistic conversations. I think if you were to say today, “Lord, I want to lead someone to Christ this year. Lead me to do that,” you would see results.
Would you dare to pray a prayer like that? You’ll have to leave your comfort zone, but you’ll be glad you did. One of the greatest joys I know is seeing someone come to Jesus.
Jesus said, “You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest” (John 4:35 NLT).
Don’t just think of the world. Think of your world. Lift up your eyes in your family. There are people ready to come to Jesus. Lift up your eyes in your neighborhood. There are people ready to come to Jesus. Lift up your eyes in your community. There are people ready to come to Jesus.
God can reach them through you.
How can we remove the obstacles to our sharing the Gospel?
What is the Lord doing in your life right now?
December 9, 2020
Leaders are Learners
About the time I again believe my climb to the very peak of knowledge is complete, I proceed into a steep decline. We’ve heard the cliché “the ups and downs of life” over and over and wonder why it is so. When we stop learning and believe we have it all figured out…
Zig Ziglar explains it beautifully in this excerpt from his book Life Promises for Leaders:
One of the most attractive traits of a powerful leader is getting excited about learning a new skill or gaining fresh insights. Conversely, one of the most discouraging characteristics of some leadership is a know-it-all mentality that walls them off from new ideas. Leaders who love to learn add enthusiasm and creativity to every meeting and every relationship, and they are great examples to others in the organization.
Spiritual life, like all aspects of life and leadership, requires a rigorous commitment to learning and growing. When we stop growing, our momentum quickly fades. The Christian life is often called a walk. A slow steady, consistent pursuit of God and His will characterizes our lives. And, like the roots of a tree, we reach down deep into the truth and grace of God to find nourishment. Soaking up sustenance never stops, and even in times of drought, we find sources of strength if we’ve gone deep enough. And finally, like a sturdy building, each choice we make when we honor God is a block in the structure of our spiritual experience. We grow stronger with each God-honoring-decision.
What happens to us when we stop learning?
What are you doing right now to keep walking, going deeper, and growing stronger?
Take a look
December 3, 2020
Keeping Step With God
Sometimes we live in a state of chaos. Racing from place to place, in our work and with our families. Everything seems to require our immediate attention and focus, and we expect quick results. Yet, there are times when we move too slowly and fail to meet even our basic obligations. A friend of mine describes his life as sitting in a car and mashing the brake and the accelerator at the same time. You are not going anywhere, and the car is shaking and falling apart. We are looking for the balance. What about our relationship with God?
Vance Havner (1901–1986), describes a walk with God. If you have never read Dr. Havner, I would encourage you to take a look. His book “Reflections on the Gospels” is a classic.
Enoch walked with God. Genesis 5:24
Enoch did not run ahead of God or lag behind Him. He walked with Him. Some go too fast, they hasten to an immature and superficial experience with God, and their consecration is not thorough. They make a mechanical “decision,” but the depths have never been stirred. Or else in a spell of emotion they make a hurried covenant with God but have no root or depth.
Others go too slowly. They are so afraid of a false decision that they make none. They spend nights praying for what is already theirs in Christ. They go into vagaries and extremes of “seeking,” and sometimes become unbalanced.
There is a happy balance here. All that we need is Jesus. Let us make no cheap and quick committals until all has been laid at his feet and we really mean business. Long hours of prayer are necessary only if we are stubborn, God is not slow to hear and answer. If we really mean business, we need not tarry. Christ is here now, immediately accessible. No wasting time afraid we are not “sure.” We can never be sure of ourselves; He is the sure One!
Walk with God. “Run not before Him.” Lag not behind Him.
How can walking with God help me balance my daily life? What might that look like?
Take a look
2 Corinthians 16
November 23, 2020
Lots of people identify as Christians, but what does a committed follower of Jesus Christ look like? It is described as a relationship. A relationship is a two-way street, and we can always find multiple reasons and excuses not to follow and serve God. I’m really busy. It’s not my calling. Already done enough. On and on. Finally, my personal favorite and most widely used to fit any occasion: “I don’t know how to do that.” If we focus on our relationship and choose to follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior change will come. Big change.
In his powerful book on evangelism, The Barbarian Way, Erwin Raphael McManus presents an excellent description of a growing relationship with Christ:
If you don’t like the idea of being an innovator, that’s fine. Just do whatever Jesus calls you to do the moment it is clear to you. Do not procrastinate; do not hesitate; do not deviate from whatever course of action He calls you to. But I want to warn you, the closer you walk with Christ, the greater the faith required. The more you trust Him, the more you’ll risk on his behalf. The more you love Him, the more you will love others. If you genuinely embrace His sacrifice, you will joyfully embrace a sacrificial life. Your expectations of Jesus will change as your intimacy with Him deepens. When you begin to follow passionately after Jesus, you will inadvertently find yourself innovating. After all, Jesus is transforming lives, writing history, creating the future, and unleashing the kingdom of God. If you plan to keep step with Jesus the Pioneer, you better expect some changes.
What gets in the way of my relationship with God? How can I eliminate this issue(s)?
Take a look
November 13, 2020
Learning to be Pilgrims Again
Rightly so, as a follower of Jesus Christ, I hold on to the promise of God’s Kingdom. In nothing else was the sacrifice so great. In nothing else do we have a guaranteed outcome. We win. Still there is much discussion around the importance of God’s Kingdom and how it should be for us as sojourners in this world. As you can see, my tendency is to explain things with a cliché like “we win.” In his excellent book Onward, Russell Moore describes this much better than I can. We are pilgrims:
We can learn to be pilgrims again, uneasy in American culture, as we should have been all along. But we are not pilgrims cringing in protective silos, waiting for the sound of trumpeters in the sky. We are part of a kingdom, a kingdom we see from afar and a kingdom we see assembling itself all around us in miniature, these little outposts of the future called the church. By putting kingdom first, we can speak from consciences formed by the future to know how to recognize what matters, peace, justice, righteousness, and how to recognize who matters, the vulnerable, the marginalized, the poor, the captive, the powerless. As we do remember, like our Lord, where we came from, and where we’re going. And as we do, we render to Caesar what we ought. We pledge allegiance where we can. But we never forget how to call Jesus “Jesus.”
Pray this week: Father, help me to focus on your kingdom and show me how I can serve you.
Look at Hebrews 11:13, 12:1,2
November 5, 2020
I don’t know about you guys, but I get tired of people criticizing me about my anger issues. It really ticks me off. Sorry about that. Sometimes I just can’t help myself.
I do get frustrated and angry when something breaks or fails to work as it should. My children were always watching for a change in my facial expression, knowing a volcanic eruption might be around the corner.
"Hey Dad, are you okay?"
"Hey Mom, I think Dad hit his thumb with the hammer again."
Children really do notice.
We know anger is a real problem, as it has come up frequently in our Bible studies over the past three years. We are concerned and seeking God’s wisdom.
Tim Keller is one of the preeminent pastors of our generation, and one of my favorite authors. He presents us with an interesting perspective on anger. What follows is excerpted from Dr. Keller’s excellent devotional book God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life:
Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. . . The mouth of an adulterous woman is a deep pit; a man who is under the Lord’s wrath falls into it. (Proverbs 11:4, 22:14)
THE GOODNESS OF ANGER.
God himself is a God of wrath. Paul tells us not to sin in our anger. (Ephesians 4:26), meaning there is a proper place for it. So, anger is not of itself something bad but very quickly goes bad in us.
Anger is energy released to defend something you love. God is angry to ward the evil that dishonors him and ruins that which he loves. But the problem with human anger is this-we tend to over love the wrong things. It is not wrong to value your name and reputation, but if you love them too much, there will be inordinate anger that essentially is just defending your ego. Parents may get inordinately angry with their children mainly because the children embarrassed them before others. Because our loves are confused and out of order, our anger-basically a good thing-so often does evil. We need to look to the one whose anger was always guided by love not for himself but us.
Consider the following:
Think of the last time you got really angry. What were you defending?
What has resulted from your anger? Hurt or Help?
Take a look at Mark 3:5 and John:14-17
October 29, 2020
Living for God
Living for God
Most of us, as dedicated followers of Christ, desire to live for Him. We want to understand what that really means. We ask the questions. How can I know God? How can I live for Him? I want to look at one of the answers to these questions today and discover how we can better live for God.
Study God’s Word
Every person I have asked about how to live for God shares this. It is wise counsel. Reading the Bible is listening to God speak to us. In my experience it sometimes breaks down when we fail to understand what God is saying, or He doesn’t say what we want hear. As a child of God adopted into His family, I can become spoiled.
Warren Wiersbe’s notes in The Wiersbe Study Bible address this clearly.
What follows is an excerpt commenting on Proverbs 20:24, “A man’s steps are of the Lord; How then can a man understand his own way?”
Most of the situations, opportunities, and decisions the average person encounters in life are dealt with in the Word of God. Consult a topical index to the Bible or even the Book of Proverbs, and we will see how thoroughly Scripture deals with the practical affairs of life. Of course, we can’t expect the Bible to specifically tell us the name of the person we are going to marry, which job we should accept, what car we should buy, or where to spend our vacation, but if we’re sincerely seeking his will, we’ll be ready for Him to guide us by His Spirit and the providential circumstances of life.
God over overruled Joseph’s brothers’ envy and used their evil deeds to build Joseph’s faith and save Jacobs’s family (Gen. 50:20). At the time, nobody could understand what God was doing, but he was working out His perfect plan. In the school of faith, sometimes we don’t know what the lesson is until we’ve passed-or failed- the examination!
Consider the following:
When was the last time you looked back on a time that was difficult and discovered how God was working in your life?
Is God’s plan for your life better than your own?
Take a look at Proverbs 16:3, 16:9.
October 22, 2020
Praying for Our Leaders
Recently, I have grown anxious considering how close the election has become. My new routine (obsession) in the morning is grab the iPad and check for any overnight problems that have developed in the world. Great way to start the day with “quiet time.” What a mess. I need to have peace and a calm mind, focused on the things of God.
I ran across this chapter “Praying for Leaders” in the book Life Promises for Leaders by Zig Ziglar. It has helped refocus my prayer life. My hope is it will be an encouragement to you.
Praying for Leaders
"I [Paul] exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior." (1 Timothy 2:1-3)
It’s easy to complain about national politicians, corporate managers, bureaucrats at every level of government, and church leaders, but instead, Paul tells us to pray for them! Paul has a very broad view in mind. Good governance provides peace and stability so that the gospel can be spread unhindered to people next door and in the most remote parts of the earth. When our attention and resources aren’t absorbed by wars, bickering, and conflict, we can invest our energies in the things that really matter.
Paul didn’t suggest that we agree with all politicians. His eyes were fixed on an invisible Kingdom where God reigns and where grace and forgiveness are the highest virtues. The reality of life in this world is that we get caught up completely in the things that are seen but neglect the things that are unseen. Political power can serve the Kingdom by providing peace and stability. Then we can focus on what matters most. Whenever you think of our political, corporate, and religious leaders, pray for them, for the peace that they can provide, and for the gospel to spread under the umbrella of their authority.
Consider the following:
How do you usually think and talk about your political, corporate, and religious leaders?
Take some time now to pray for them and the cause of Christ to spread.
Take a look at 1 Corinthians 3:11 and 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13.
October 16, 2020
8 Ways to Show Your Love
The last six months have been a challenge. More of a challenge for Sherri having to be sheltering in place with me. You have probably spent more time with your bride than you ever dreamed possible and this can put the best relationships to the test. It is easy to forget some of the most basic and important things for us as couples.
This is from the re|engage marriage enrichment seminar that we have hosted here at Frisco First. It is familiar, but it has blessed us, and it is my prayer that it will encourage you and your wife as well.
8 Ways to Show Your Love:
1. Encourage and be thoughtful at all times.
Don’t let your actions, attitude or speech wound your significant other or remind you of our past failures. Be patient. Your significant other doesn’t have to show immediate change or bring you instant gratification.
2. Humbly admit your own weaknesses.
How are you doing at celebrating your significant other instead of trying to one-up him/her? Marriage isn’t a competition.
3. Put your significant other’s desires first before your own.
Find joy in serving them instead of being manipulative. How can you be a student of your spouse today?
4. Overlook small offenses & graciously forgive larger ones.
Real love can handle interruptions, shortcomings and disappointments. Don’t let your flesh become angry or agitated. Your significant other is not perfect.
5. Remain committed even when hardships come.
Stay committed to your relationship regardless of what comes your way and regardless of what you receive in return.
6. Believe the best about your significant other & act in a trustworthy manner.
No secrets and full disclosure – 100% authenticity. Are you playing in the game or are you just sitting on the bench? You have to do your part to make the relationship work.
7. For the husband: Your responsibility and privilege are to love her like Christ loved the church. (see Ephesians 5:25-28).
How are you doing at sacrificially putting aside your selfish desires in order to better sacrifice and serve her in the same vein with which Christ loved you?
8. For the wife: Your responsibility and privilege are to come alongside of your husband as a loving source of help and encouragement (see Ephesians 5:22-24).
How are you doing at helping your husband and submitting to his leadership as a sign of your love and affection?
This is not a checklist, but rather a set of principles posed to help you better love your spouse. God loves us perfectly and we have the privilege of loving each other in a ‘1 Corinthians 13’ way in marriage.
Together look at 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Take some time this week to honestly assess and discuss with your significant other how you are doing in loving them in a ‘1 Corinthians 13’ manner. Let us not just love with words, but with action and in truth (1 John 3:18).
October 2, 2020
Sleep Well, My Friend
Medical experts are reporting a significant rise in the percentage of Americans suffering from insomnia since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Under normal conditions, an estimated 30 to 35% of Americans suffer from sleep difficulties, but recent studies are showing the current number to be closer to 50%. This is understandable. Some of the obvious reasons include fear of contracting the disease, increased financial concerns, disruption of work or school schedules, feelings of isolation, and changes in daily routines.
The truth is, these days have been unpredictable and stressful for most of us. With that in mind, Psalm 4 caught my attention during my morning Bible reading. The setting of this particular Psalm is night time, when worries and anxious thoughts can easily keep us from sleep. The Psalm begins with a prayer and an affirmation but quickly gets to stressful circumstances that threaten to rob David of peace and sleep:
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! 2O men,[a] how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah 3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.
(Psalm 4:2-3 ESV)
Many believe this Psalm was written during his conflict with Absalom and forced evacuation from Jerusalem. Bottom line, David had many things that could easily keep him up at night. Despite this current crisis, David remembers that God has been faithful in delivering him in the past. He encourages the reader to do what he is doing. Trust in God and wait for his deliverance.
4 Be angry,[b] and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah 5 Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.
David encourages us to reflect on what is bothering us and to choose to trust God with whatever is keeping us up at night. I love the way the Psalm ends:
6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” 7You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. 8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
When I have trouble sleeping, I will often make a list of things that I am worrying about. As I look over the list, I often realize that there are things on my list over which I have no control. Why should I worry over what I don’t control anyway? I verbally tell God that I am giving my list to him and ask him to let me go to sleep. I have found this practice helpful. Sleep well, my friend.
September 18, 2020
Hydroplaning Through Life
The day I purchased my used 2010 Honda Pilot was also the day I learned first-hand what it means to hydroplane. While checking out the car, I somehow neglected to pay attention to the condition of the tires. Driving home in a sudden downpour, I tapped my brakes only to discover that my bald tires had lost contact with the pavement, sending me fishtailing across the adjacent lanes of the tollway.
Thankfully, I was able to regain control and escape my predicament unscathed. Too often, I find that I can internalize the worries or concerns of my life rather than identify them and give them to God and share them with anyone else. When this happens, I find myself going through the motions in my relationship with God and those I care about the most. When I am “hydroplaning,” in life, I lack the self-awareness of what is going on beneath the surface of my life.
The Bible teaches that each of us is made in the image of God and are wonderfully complex, having both an external life and an internal life. When the Bible uses the term, soul, it most often refers to the internal, “spiritual” part of our nature. John Wesley, considered the founder of the Methodist and Wesleyan Churches, frequently asked the question “How is your soul?” to colleagues at Oxford University. This is a much different question than simply “how are you?” It is closer to the question, “How are you doing, really?” “How is your soul?” encourages us to pause and reflect before answering.
I find that the pace and pressures of life often leave us with a depleted or weary soul. In Psalm 42, the author takes an honest look within and describes his soul as “downcast.”
11“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
This passage provides us an excellent example of someone who is willing to take an honest look within at what is going on below the surface of his life. This is the opposite of hydroplaning. In the book, Soul Shaping, Douglas Rumford describes the following symptoms of soul neglect: increased irritability and impatience, even with those we love; a growing sense of discontentment and restlessness; increased feelings of being overwhelmed; a loss of joy; a loss of compassion. We find ourselves doing more but enjoying it less.
The truth is, this is not God’s will for any of us. Jesus declared in John’s gospel, that he came to offer us a different way to live. He came to reconcile us to God and offer us spiritual or soul life as a gift, through faith in Him. He came so that we could experience an “abundant life” or live with a “full soul.’ One of my favorite New Testament passages is Matthew 11, where Jesus makes the following offer:
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I have found that a personal relationship with Jesus frees me from having to be in control. I am able to rest in God’s love and care for me in Christ, and deal honestly with what is going on under the surface of my life. As I seek to emulate the kind of life that Jesus lived, I find interior resources that I don’t have otherwise.
So, how is your soul these days? As the uncertainty and stress of life increases, it is easy to lose the grounding that comes from a personal and ongoing dependence on God. The apostle John opens the little book of third John, with a warm greeting and prayer for his friend, Gaius. “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” (3 John 1:2)
I pray that your soul is getting along well these days. If you find yourself spiritually or emotionally hydroplaning, slow down enough to regain the grounding of a personal connection with God.
September 10, 2020
It's Break Time
I was recently reminded of the research of Psychologist George Gerbner who coined the term “mean world syndrome.” Gerber discovered that the more a person watched violence on television, the more likely they were to perceive the world as a dangerous place. It seems that in recent months, our news has been filled with a steady stream of disturbing news. Covid-19, racial unrest, violent protests, vitriolic political discourse, hurricanes, and wildfires have bombarded us with disturbing images and angry dialogue. The sheer volume of negative information has at times seemed overwhelming.
So, let me ask you a simple question. How is this affecting you? Do you find yourself discouraged? Are you more suspicious of people these days? Do you find that you are impatient or anxious? I would like to suggest something. Detoxify your mind.
Decrease your intake of negative news. Turn it off. Take a media fast. Take a break. For a day. For a weekend. Dare I say, for an entire week. See what happens. Fill that space with praise and worship music, classical music, biblical teaching, interesting podcasts, good literature, or something educational. (I can recommend some great podcast and books you can listen to on overdrive with your membership to Frisco Public Library.)
Listen to the challenge of Philippians 4:8:
8Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
Pay attention to what feeds and builds up your soul and what does the opposite. While I am not advocating that we live uninformed regarding the world around us, I am challenging us to consider what our news and information diet is like.
If you have never done so, make a list of the media you typically consume in a day and the purpose you have for consuming it. For example, you might watch or listen to the news to stay informed, or listen to music or watch a show to relax. The point is, many of us are not aware of the kind of information we are allowing into our hearts and minds during a given day. We turn the radio or TV on as a reflex. Some of us keep the television on throughout the evening. Why?
Philippians 4:8 is ultimately about choosing what we think about. As Proverbs 23:7 says, in the old King James version. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is…”
Yours in Christ,
September 3, 2020
You’re Not God—Stop Acting Like It!
(BY RICK WARREN)
“Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work” (Ecclesiastes 10:15 GNT)
You’re not God. You don’t have all the answers. You can’t do everything. If you’re struggling to find balance in your life, those admissions can transform everything.
The Bible says, “Only someone too stupid to find his way home would wear himself out with work” (Ecclesiastes 10:15 GNT).
It’s foolish to wear yourself out with work. Do you realize that when you overwork, you’re playing God? It’s a way of saying that it all depends on you, that everything will crash down if you don’t keep the world spinning.
That’s just not true! You’re not the general manager of the universe. The universe will not fall apart if you take time to rest, if you take time to balance your life. God has it under control.
Often we do this to ourselves because we’re trying to please everyone. Learn this lesson today: You can’t please everyone. Even God can’t please everyone! One person wants it to rain. Another one wants it to be sunny. It’s absurd to try doing what even God can’t do.
When you live for the expectations of others, you pile a ton of “shoulds” on your shoulders. You may think, “I should work more hours,” “I should be as active as all the other parents,” or “I should volunteer for this project.” But realize this: No one is forcing you to do those things. Overworking is your choice. You choose to take on the extra work or not to take it on. And you choose the consequences that come with your choice.
When you deny your humanity and try to do it all, you’re robbing God of his glory. The Bible declares this in 2 Corinthians 4:7(NIV): “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”
Paul reminds us that we’re human beings. We’re feeble and fragile. Jars of clay break easily. If you drop them, they shatter. Clay pots have to be handled appropriately and with care. If not, they’ll be destroyed.
But the good news is that through our feebleness, the power and glory of God shine through. Your humanity isn’t something to hide. Instead, you can celebrate the power of God working through your limitations.
So admit it: You’re human. Thank God for that!
August 27, 2020
The Downside of Technology
I am very grateful for technology. I really am. I am thankful that we did not go through Covid-19 fifteen years ago, before Zoom and other tools were readily available. I love the fact that our LIFEGroups can connect, discuss scripture, share requests, and pray for each other using the tools we have at our disposal. How cool is that! In fact, technology has recently allowed me to join my wife’s LIFEGroup, on the Sundays we prerecorded the service, or rebroadcast the 9:30 live service at 11. (We do that some Sundays 😀)
I am delighted that we have the ability to broadcast our services into homes literally around the world. I love it when my daughter watches our services from Germany. I look forward to our weekly FaceTime visit with my son, Walker, and our sweet daughter-in-law, Christi, in Athens, Georgia. We even watched one of the services from their church in Athens last week… (I had to check out their broadcast as Walker works a camera for their AV ministry 😀). I love the many ways that technology provides a bridge for connection. I really do.
Technology is a blessing, but it can also be an excuse. While it allows for connection, it can also feed a sense of complacency and consumerism. At the same time that it takes away some of the barriers for not participating, it also reduces the effort and investment involved in participating. Easier is not always better. It is easy to turn on the laptop or the smart TV and check out of LIFEGroup or worship. It also makes it easy settle for a digital back row and hide behind convenience rather than risk vulnerability and the hard work of discipleship. One of my greatest fears during these days is that growing numbers of Christians will simply tune out, stop reading their Bibles, stop sharing their struggles, stop actively engaging in worship, and simply drift away. Jesus did not say that following him would be easy or convenient.
The Way of the Cross
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
The last time I checked, there is not a lot of self-denial involved in passive viewership. Sometimes the inconvenient things are the things that lead to growth.
Yours in Christ,
AUGUST 20, 2020
The little book of Philemon has been one of my favorites for a number of reasons. It is named for the recipient of the letter, who is a wealthy Christ-follower and the owner of a bondservant named Philemon. Bondservants were indentured servants. Some chose to become a bondservant in order to pay off debts, learn a trade, or improve their position in life. They traded freedom for security, education, etc. Although we do not know the particulars of the relationship between Philemon and his bondservant Onesimus, we do know one thing: Onesimus ran away and did not fulfill his obligation to Philemon.
We also know that Onesimus landed in Rome where he crossed paths with Paul. Evidently Paul shared the gospel with Onesimus and his life was transformed. Paul learned that Onesimus’ owner was, in fact, Paul’s personal friend Philemon. From what Paul wrote, we get the idea that Philemon was somehow indebted to Paul. Perhaps Paul led both Onesimus and his master Philemon to the Lord. So Paul wrote the letter we call Philemon to ask his old friend to take Onesimus back and to treat him as he would have treated Paul.
Paul's Plea for Onesimus
8Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, 9 yet for love's sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus— 10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus,[a] whose father I became in my imprisonment. [Paul is saying that he is a spiritual father to Onesimus.]
11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me. [Paul uses a word play on the name Onesimus—which means useful.]
12 I am sending him back to you, sending my very heart. [Paul is saying, “I love this guy.”] 13 I would have been glad to keep him with me, in order that he might serve me on your behalf during my imprisonment for the gospel, 14 but I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord. 15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant[b] but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
17 So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me. 18 If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account. 19 I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it—to say nothing of your owing me even your own self. [Paul has a long history with Philemon, evidently.]
Paul challenged Philemon to see his relationship with Onesimus in a completely new light. Onesimus was not simply a servant. He was now a brother. While Paul acknowledged the sizable differences in position and power that existed in their master/bondservant relationship, he challenged Philemon to see Onesimus not just as an employee but as someone loved by Christ.
The fact that Onesimus was now a follower of Jesus brought a heightened level of accountability to Philemon. It also reminds those of us who manage others that we are accountable to God in how we treat them. As we reflect on this story, is there someone in your work world that you need to see through a different lens? Have you forgotten that no matter who they are, they matter to God? No matter what task or work they perform, they have dignity and value to Him—and should to us as well. Paul reminds us that regardless of the nature of our work relationships, we are called to honor Christ in how we treat each other—especially the Onesimus in our life.
Yours in Christ,
AUGUST 13, 2020
I have hoarding tendencies. There, I admit it. My wife has been trying to point this out to me over the years, but I have deflected her comments and defended my actions with statements like “you never know when that will come back in style,” or “I may need that for something.” One day she decided to inventory my baseball hats and asked, “Why do you need more than 30 baseball hats?” Fair question. I tried to explain that some are for summer, others for winter, some for watching Auburn games, and others for travel. Besides, I should wear a hat to protect my head against skin cancer. “You don’t want me to get skin cancer, do you?” Of course not, but 35 hats? The truth is, I tend to hold onto things for a long time. Far too long. So lately, I have wrestled with why I have this tendency? Do I fear not having enough? Did my parents’ stories of the hardship of their early childhood during the great depression impact me as a child? Or is it simply a byproduct of my own selfishness and the consumption culture of our day? After doing some self-reflection, I have come to the conclusion that I must find a comfort or sense of security in holding onto things. Jesus warns us against feeding these tendencies in a familiar passage from the Sermon On The Mount:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, (the word for unhealthy is translated “greedy” elsewhere in the New Testament) your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (literally mammon, or things). (Matthew 6:19-24 NIV)
Since I have begun to ask the “why” question more often, it has helped me to recognize my tendency to hold on to things. My wife is also helping me to get rid of something every time I get something new. I am getting better at giving away and letting go. While this may seem like a silly concern, I know that Jesus warns us to be on the lookout for greed.
Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15 NIV)
He would have said to watch out and be your guard if it was something obvious.
I do not want my heart tied too closely to things when my greatest treasure is Christ and my family is next. I know that it is hard for us to see greed or materialism in the mirror. I would have never admitted that I have the tendency to hoard if my wife had not taken an inventory. While I am not there yet, I am making progress…. (My hat collection now stands at 22!)
Yours in Christ,
AUGUST 7, 2020
For the past two weeks I have been reading through the book of Acts with a friend for my daily scripture reading. The accountability is helpful and provides that little extra nudge to get it done. If you are like me, busyness and distractions can move me away from my intentions. I recommend you get someone to team up with when you are starting something new or wanting to continue in something that at times can be hard to maintain. This is also biblical.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV)
Jesus sent his disciples out in teams of two:
Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two…(Mark 6:7 NIV)
Throughout the book of Acts, you see the principle of two by two played out again and again.
Dynamic Duos are forged. Barnabas and Paul, and later Paul and Silas are stellar examples of this principle.
Some partnerships are for a season, while others last for years. The friend and I who are reading Acts together have been doing so for a few weeks, while I have a weekly prayer partner that has prayed with and for me for the past seven years. The sheer number of commands in scripture that include the phrase “one another” remind us that following Jesus is not intended to be done in isolation. The point is, we need the encouragement and accountability of other believers. I also know that forming a Christian friendship that goes deeper requires two people who are moving in a similar direction and share a similar desire. In other words, it can’t be forced. It also requires that one of the two suggest or initiate it, which for most of us is the sticking point. For the record, my prayer partner was the one who asked if I would be interested. We agreed to try it for a season and haven’t stopped. It is now something we just do. If either of us is traveling or distracted and we miss for a week, the other will check in. I am so glad he made that initial suggestion.
A recent survey commissioned by Evite reveals that 45% of adults admit they find it hard to make new friends. In fact, the average adult hasn’t made a new friend in the last five years, according to the survey. About two in five (42%) said they have trouble making friends because of introversion or shyness. For these individuals, it’s hard to be the initiator.
I want to encourage you to consider being one who asks someone to do a devotional together. You can use a tool like the free You Version Bible App and select a plan that sounds interesting or might be helpful for what you are going through. You can share the plan with a friend, and share comments about what spoke to you in the passage. Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be, just make the ask. As you pray about considering this challenge, ask God to point you in the direction of someone to ask. You never know; seven years later you might have forged a dear friendship you might not otherwise have had, also grown closer to Christ. I call that a “win-win.”
Yours in Christ,
JULY 23, 2020
You never know what a day holds...
This week I received a text message from a dear friend that jolted me. It began with the words “Well...you never know what a day holds” and then began to give the details of a sudden hospitalization and emergency surgery for a life-threatening tumor. I contacted him immediately and have been praying for him and checking on him ever since. His words, whether we like it or not are true for each of us. “You never know what a day holds”… which is why Jesus instructs us to focus on today.
Jesus gives us a model for prayer that we know as The Lord’s Prayer. In this prayer, we are instructed to seek God’s will and reign in our lives and to ask for what we need today. Not next week or next month or next year. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Only today. Why this day and not this week, month or even this year?
God knows that too often when we focus on the future, we fail to pay attention to the present. We become worried about future possibilities and consequently fail to live fully in the present. In fact, just a few verses after the Lord’s prayer, Jesus launches into a warning against storing up riches for yourself (Matthew 6:19-24). While scripture is certainly not opposed to planning or saving for the future, the order of Jesus’ words serves as a reminder that if we are not living by faith in the present—what we store up for the future will not matter. God wants us to live by faith today. Give us this day our daily bread. Forgive us (this day) our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. Focusing on walking by faith today, protects me from obsessing about an uncertain tomorrow. It also protects me from overlooking the blessing of today. Listen to Jesus instructions from Matthew 6:25- 34:
Do Not Worry
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34 NIV)
Did you catch the last verse? Each day has enough trouble of its own. Indeed. You never know what a day holds. One day your plans can be upended, and you are staring at a life-threatening condition that you were completely unaware of just twenty-four hours earlier. This inconvenient and disturbing reality should cause us to live humbly today with a sense of gratitude, dependence and faith.
JULY 30, 2020
The missing ingredient in my prayers...
Baking powder is an ingredient that makes all the difference in baking. It is a secret ingredient in self-rising flour. If you have ever made a cake that fell flat, it may have been because you left out this key ingredient. Philippians chapter four includes a key ingredient in prayer that is often overlooked:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)
Paul begins by commanding us to rejoice in the Lord, which is easier said than done when we feel stressed or weighted down with worry. Paul is reminding us that joy is often a choice. I know that this is true but how do you ‘get there’ when the last thing you feel in the moment is joyful? Paul is not saying ‘fake it until you make it.’ He is not encouraging us to be inauthentic. He is pointing us to a critical ingredient for experiencing God’s peace. This ingredient is described with two words that I somehow missed seeing in this passage. The words are “with thanksgiving.” Paul says to present your requests to God “with thanksgiving.” What he is instructing us to do is to start our prayers by mentally listing some of the things that we are thankful for rather than jumping into our list of requests. Paul says to bring any and every concern to God, but to do so “with thanksgiving.” In other words, accompanied by a list of things for which we are grateful.
Perhaps the reason that I sometimes pray and do not feel a sense of God’s peace, is that my prayer is not accompanied with thanksgiving. When I forget to acknowledge and mentally list God’s blessings, I tend to resemble an entitled, whining child. Trust me, there is no peace in this approach. For the record, this is not the only time that thanksgiving is associated with prayer and fellowship with God.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. (Psalm 100:4 NIV)
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2 NIV)
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)
I could list more scriptures saying the same thing. God wants gratitude to be a habit in our lives. One of the benefits of gratitude, for example, is how it helps protect us against temptation. Notice Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:3-4 NIV)
One of the sure ways to short circuit our entitlement and quell a spirit of discontentment, is to practice expressing gratitude. Why not start your prayers with a list of some things you are grateful for and see the difference it makes in your fellowship with God!
Yours in Christ,
JULY 9, 2020
To honor something or someone means to “hold in high honor or esteem.” In Hebrews 13:4 we read the command to hold “marriage” in honor among all, and to let the marriage bed be undefiled.”
"Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. In a culture that celebrates the individual, this command is counter cultural. To begin with, it assumes the traditional biblical definition of marriage as between a man and woman." (Hebrews 13:4 NIV)
"That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. To become one flesh implies more than simply a sexual union but a unique and exclusive intimacy between a man and wife. This sacred union separates marriage from all other relationships. Notice however, the emphasis is on marriage itself… as in the Institution of Marriage. Secular culture encourages those who find themselves unhappy or unsatisfied in their marriage to leave for the sake of personal fulfillment. God’s word challenges us to do the hard work of repentance, forgiveness, and acceptance. As Christ-followers we should celebrate those couples who choose to do the hard work of working through challenges and choose to stay when it would be easier to bail." (Genesis 2:24 NIV)
Interestingly enough: longitudinal studies conducted by Dr. John Gottman, show that couples who do not FEEL particularly loving towards each other, and report they are unhappy with their marriages—2/3rds of them—will change their feelings and move from unhappy to happy—within 5 years, if they stick with the marriage and work on their issues.
In other words, commitment to marriage leads to a happier marriage. Honoring marriage is the value beneath the commitment to stick with it and prioritize the relationship even when we do not feel like doing so. When I neglect my marriage or complain about my spouse, I am dishonoring the institution of marriage.
I find the following ideas from “Build Your Marriage” helpful when seeking to honor your marriage and your spouse:
1. See your spouse through God’s eyes.
Your spouse was “knit together…. fearfully and wonderfully made” in their mother’s womb by God (Psalm 139:13-14). He created them with a purpose. They have value to him, just as you do. Consider praying a simple prayer like, “God, you love my spouse so much. Help me to see them through your eyes. Help me to love them with your love.”
2. Appreciate their unique qualities.
It can be easy to get frustrated with what our spouse doesn’t do well. In fact, we can create a running list in our mind of the things that we wish they would do better. Instead, make the concerted effort to focus on what they do well. Tell them the good things that you see. Reaffirm to them what you believe they can do and accomplish.
3. Treat your spouse with care.
God calls us to treat our spouse carefully. We are to be tender and not harsh with our wives. Tender or kind in the way that we speak to them. Careful in the way that we speak about them to others.
4. Defer to their interests.
In a dishonoring marriage, spouses look to their own interests. Paul says that we are to honor one another above ourselves. That means having an attitude that seeks the best first for our spouse. A simple question to ask yourself is, “Am I looking out for myself in this situation, or am I considering what’s best for my spouse?” Over time, you will train yourself to defer gladly do your spouse’s best interest.
Try applying these ideas this week as you honor your marriage and build your spouse!
Yours in Christ,
JULY 2, 2020
Beware of Becoming a Critic
One of my favorite stories from the book of Acts is found in chapter ten, when God calls Peter to go to the home of Cornelius. Cornelius is a god-fearing Roman Centurion and a Gentile. God speaks to Cornelius in a vision telling him to send men to Joppa and to ask for a man named Simon Peter. As the men are on their way, God speaks to Peter as he was on the roof top praying. God instructs Peter to not hesitate to go Cornelius’ home even though it would mean entering the house of a Gentile, which was considered wrong for devout Jews. As soon as Peter arrives, Cornelius explains the story behind his asking him to come.
“So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” (Acts 10:33-36 NIV)
Peter continued to share the good news of Jesus to Cornelius and the gathering of Gentiles that had assembled. What followed has been called the “Gentile Pentecost” because the Holy Spirit moved in the same way that is recorded at the birth of the church in Acts 2 (which involved an exclusively Jewish gathering) Peter realized that God was moving in a clear and unmistakable way.
“Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their (these Gentile believers) being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.” (Acts 10:46-11:1 NIV)
The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. What you would hope to follow is something like this… “the Believers throughout Judea were excited to hear, or “amazed to learn” that the good news of Jesus had reached Gentiles as well. That is not the case. The next verses tell a different story.
“So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (Acts 11:2-4 NIV)
Notice their initial response, they criticized him. Before Peter had the opportunity to explain the vision from God, how God spoke to Cornelius, and the amazing hand of God in this whole story, they criticized him. As I reflect on this story a question comes to mind. Why is it so easy to respond to something we don’t understand with criticism? Why is it that the story focused on Peter going into the home of a Gentile and not the miraculous salvation of a Gentile?
Rather than reserve judgment until they had the full story, they opted instead for criticism. What is your initial response something you don’t understand? Do you rush to judgment or give the benefit of the doubt? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us against rushing to judgment.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2 NIV)
Did you catch verse two? “In the same way you judge others, you will be judged.” I don’t know about you, but I want others to be generous in their assessment of me. I want others to be slow to judgment and choose instead to believe the best of my motives and actions. I guess you do as well, so ask God to help you to choose a more generous and gracious response to others. I am reminded of the story Steven Covey tells in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, illustrating this principle.
Covey was riding the New York subway when a father with three unruly children entered the same train car and sat across from him. The kids were out of control and made a ruckus. Covey scolded the father for letting his kids disturb others. The father answered sadly that they were returning from his wife’s funeral. He explained that the children were usually well behaved but were acting out their grief. The father said that he didn’t have the energy to correct them right now. Covey felt like a jerk for pre-judging and he shifted his thinking immediately. Now he felt compassion, empathy, and support for this family, once he knew the larger story.
So, when you find yourself choosing between a generous or critical response, why not choose the more gracious?
JUNE 25, 2020
I was reminded this week of the first time in the Bible when God calls something bad or harmful. In the account of creation, there is an affirmation following each day; something to the effect, and it was “very good.” Standing in stark contrast we read these words in Genesis 2:18, “The Lord God said, It is not good for the man to be alone…” or as the band Three Dog Night famously sang, “one is the loneliest number,” which was repeated again and again for emphasis. The truth is, we were made for community.
Christianity is both a private discipline and a shared experience. Did you realize that there are 59 one another commands in the New Testament? Andy Stanley writes that THE primary activity of the church was 'one-anothering' one another. Consider the partial list below:
“…Be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)
“…Love one another…” (John 13:34)
“…Serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13)
“Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2)
“…Pray for each other.” (James 5:16)
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” (Ephesians 5:19)
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love…” (Romans 12:10)
“Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)
“Encourage one another daily…” Hebrews 3:13
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you…” (Romans 15:7)
“Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Ephesians 4:32)
“…Forgiving each other…” (Ephesians 4:32)
And of course, the one that none of us is practicing these days for good reason:
“Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (I Corinthians 16:20)
The question I would like for each of us to ask these days—How can I combat isolation and “be” the church during these days of social distancing and COVID 19? While “greeting one another with a holy kiss” is clearly off the table for now, loving each other is not. Nor is bearing one another’s burdens or encouraging one another daily. It is so easy for us to focus on what we “cannot do” that we neglect what we can. To “carry one another’s burdens,” “pray for one another,” or “encourage one another…” will require that we take initiative. It will mean that we pick up the phone and call a friend you haven’t seen in a while. It will unfortunately mean that we join yet another zoom call, only for the purpose of connecting with friends from our LIFEGroup and encouraging each other with God’s truth. It may mean getting together practicing social distancing or sharing prayer needs through online worship. It may mean sending an encouraging e-mail or note to someone you know is struggling.
Join me in combating the isolation that many of us are experiencing these days. It is truly not good for us to be alone. Choose one way you can “one another someone today” and do it! Feel free to reach out to me. I would be honored to pray for and with you.
JUNE 18, 2020
As a leader and a man, I like the confidence that comes with having a plan and a degree of certainty regarding a course of action. In making decisions, I tend to rely on personal knowledge, expert opinion, and past experiences to form a reasonable plan of action. What happens when past experiences don’t inform our current circumstances? What happens when expert opinions conflict and certainty has left the building? If this sounds oddly familiar, welcome to 2020.
What do we do when we don’t know what to do? Great question. Listen to the inspired words of the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I love what Warren Wiersbe writes, “All the wisdom a person may acquire can never replace the need for full trust in God’s direction and guidance.” In other words, we never reach a point where trusting God requires us to not learn or change. To trust in the Lord implies more than a nod of acknowledgment to God, but the desire to understand Him better through reading His word. How in the world can we trust in the Lord, if we are not reading the Bible on a regular basis? Seriously? It is so easy to say we are trusting in the Lord, when the truth is—we are trusting more in the wisdom of Fox News, CNN, or the Wall Street Journal. To lean into the wisdom of God requires that we expose ourselves to biblical truth on a regular basis.
It is not easy to break old habits, and the default for many of us is to check the news, or social media, and rush into our day without pausing to hear from God. This reinforces the pattern of making a decision without seeking God first. We end up asking God to bless what we have already decided to do. This habit is hard to break, even for pastors. I challenge you to join me in praying the Proverbs 3:5-6 prayer on a regular basis. Write it down and put it on your computer screen. Memorize these verses.
Join me in praying;
“Lord Jesus, I choose to trust you today. Help me to not lean on my own understanding, which is lacking, but yours. I submit to you today… and commit to do the next thing that I am reasonably sure you want me to do, trusting that you will direct me today.”
Yours in Christ,
JUNE 11, 2020
This week I got back in the swimming pool for the first time in more than three months. I did not pick up where I left off. I will need to train harder in order to return to what I consider a more “normal” speed and distance. Habit experts tell us that it takes somewhere between six to ten weeks to build a habit like exercise, but 14 days or less to break one. That is why scripture is filled with positive exhortations to not stop doing the things that feed spiritual health and vitality.
"Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer." (Hebrews 10:25 GNT)
In other words, don’t neglect Christian fellowship. One of my biggest concerns during this pandemic, is that the longer we are apart physically, the more we will tend drift in our connection with God and each other. We are made for community. We need each other and specifically the encouragement we receive from each other. The verse immediately before Hebrews 10:25, stresses that each of us has a responsibility to encourage someone else.
"Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works." (Hebrews 10:25)
Last time I checked,“let us” means each of us, not some of us. You are not exempt from God’s call to motivate someone else to follow Jesus. Let that sink in. You are responsible to motivate someone else (positively, not negatively).
When I think of motivating someone, I think of the act of gracious encouragement. The parent who encourages their child by saying “you can do it!” but will love them just the same if they fall short. I am motivated by someone who both accepts me and pushes me to be better. Who has been that in your life? I think of a college friend who invited me to do a Bible study together. Knowing that he was doing his part each week motivated me to not only show up, but to show up prepared.
These days of social distancing provide the perfect excuse for many of us to fade in our involvement, neglect Christian community and disengage in spiritual disciplines like studying scripture and prayer. If we do, we open ourselves up for a season of spiritual atrophy. When you get back in the pool spiritually speaking, you will not be in the shape you were in when you disengaged. I want to encourage each of us to ask ourselves two questions: Who can I motivate to continue pursuing Christ? What are some ways that I might inspire, encourage and motivate them to grow closer to Christ? What I have discovered, is that by focusing on helping someone else, I grow stronger.
Yours in Christ,
JUNE 4, 2020
Names are important. One of the first tasks of parenting is selecting a name for your child. I remember the decision to name my son, Walker. I wanted to name him for my dad, whose name was Charles, but I didn’t want to also give him the name Leander. (my middle name; as in… Charles Leander Martin III) We landed on Charles Walker. Charles, for my dad. Walker, because our desire is that he “walk” with God. As in Micah 6:8:
"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)
Throughout the Bible, we see new names introduced for God that describe various aspects of his nature. For example, King David referred to God as his shepherd (Jehovah Raah) in the Twenty third Psalm. One of my favorite stories behind one of the names for God in the old Testament (El Roi) comes from Genesis 16 and is a name given to God by the Egyptian slave of Sarai, the wife of Abraham. As a result of the jealousy between Hagar and Saria over Hagar’s pregnancy, Sarai mistreated Hagar. Hagar fled into the wilderness intending to never return. God appeared to her in the wilderness and in response, she gives him the name El Roi, “the God who sees.”
Abram takes a hands off approach to the conflict, as we pick up the story in Genesis 16.6
“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; [many Bible scholars believe this was a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ] it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.” (Genesis 6:6-13)
I have reflected on this passage this past week. Especially in light of the protests and unrest throughout America. The truth is, I have been guilty at times of not wanting to “see” the pain and suffering of others. In this story, God “saw” the mistreatment that Hagar suffered at the hands of her mistress, Sarai. He was not indifferent to Hagar’s plight. Seeing means awareness. Seeing means that we acknowledge something exists. Seeing brings responsibility.
I cannot turn away from seeing the officers’ knee on the neck of George Floyd. As a white man who has not personally experienced the racial prejudice of my black brothers, it is easy to “not see”. Yet God calls us to see as he sees. To see racism and mistreatment. To not only see, but to feel. We are called to “mourn with those who mourn.” Seeing opens us up to feeling, identifying with, and mourning with.
Bob Pierce, who founded World Vision and later Samaritan’s Purse, is well known for a prayer that he wrote on the fly leaf of his Bible. “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” As a result of praying this simple prayer, God began to stir him to see and become involved in the plight of orphans. I challenge each of us to pray this same prayer and by so doing, God may open our eyes to needs and injustices he would have us address. Praying that each of us would not turn a blind eye, but would see and feel, and act. That we will be the arms and feet of Jesus. To do so, we must first have the eyes to see.
Yours In Christ,
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church
MAY 28, 2020
The idea of justice is a biblical theme. God is just. It is part of his nature. Following Christ means that we seek to reflect his nature. Jesus provides a beautiful example for us to follow in how to treat people, especially those who are marginalized. Consider how he interacted with the woman of Samaria, tax collectors like Levi, Roman military officers, lepers, and others who were despised and the objects of prejudice in his day. Jesus pursued justice and we are called to do the same.
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
As Christians we are called to work for justice which includes racial justice. Watching the recent video from Minneapolis of a police officer’s knee on the neck of George Floyd, was one more example of the injustice that too many blacks experience in America. I remember a black classmate in seminary recounting his experience of being pulled over and questioned for driving through a Dallas neighborhood to attend a party. This was a party that I also attended without incident.
How do we seek justice and correct oppression? For starters, we do so by pointing it out when we see it. In cases like George Floyd, this is pretty obvious and easy. Yet more subtle prejudice and injustice is harder to spot, especially in ourselves. Jesus taught that sin has its’ root in the heart long before it surfaces through ugly words or actions.
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Matthew 15:19 ESV)
Jesus went on to say that it was out of the heart that sins grow.
“For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Luke 4:9-12 NLT)
We can add racism to that list.
As I reflected on this heart-breaking incident and violence that has unfortunately followed, I have asked myself if there are roots of prejudice in me? Do I turn a blind eye to prejudices, simply because they do not affect me personally?
Corrie Ten Boom, herself the victim of injustice of a Nazi concentration camp, writes "The blood of Jesus never cleansed an excuse. When you bring your sins to Him for forgiveness, do not bring your excuses - come honestly in your need of Him.” Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place.
Ask the Holy Spirit to show you the secret attitudes or prejudices that you have excused. Confess them and receive his cleansing, but don’t stop there. Commit to work for justice.
Yours In Christ,
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church
MAY 21, 2020
Psalm 91 has been a passage that many of us have turned to for comfort during the uncertainty and fear of the current pandemic.
Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.7 Though a thousand fall at your side, though ten thousand are dying around you, these evils will not touch you. Just open your eyes, and see how the wicked are punished. If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone. (Psalm 91 NLT)
While we find these words comforting, we must be careful to not make it say something for our situation that it doesn’t. While the promise of this Psalm seems pretty clear as it states that that God will keep us safe; He will cover us with his wings (protect us) and no plague will come near our home. However, when interpreting scripture, we must be careful to not pull a single scripture out of its context, but to interpret it in light of other passages in the Bible. This was a promise to King David.
In fact, taking a passage out of context and claiming it as a promise is exactly what Satan tempted Jesus with while in the wilderness. One of the temptations involved this very passage when Satan quoted Psalm 91.
“Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off!For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’ ” (Luke 4:9-12 NLT)
When we claim Psalm 91 as promising to protect us from all suffering, we take it out of context and set ourselves up for disillusionment with God. When we inevitably face suffering, which Jesus said we would, we will claim that we can’t believe or trust the Bible. Psalm 91 was God’s promise to David to keep him from harm; it is not a blanket promise to us. We need to look at Psalm 91 in light of the wider teaching of scripture. For example, Jesus clearly taught that we would face trials and suffering in this life.
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”.” (John 16:33 NLT)
Remember that God promises to work in all things for the good, not that all things will be good.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV)
God clearly uses suffering and hardship for our good. Towards the end of the story of Joseph in Psalm 51, he looks back on the suffering that he experienced at the hands of his brothers who had sold him into slavery twenty years earlier and says, “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” Joseph acknowledges the suffering but recognized that God had a good purpose for him through the suffering. In a sense, God was keeping him safe (spiritually speaking) by causing him to have to trust him through suffering. God was maturing him and worked through his circumstances and ultimately kept his family safe through the famine.
In Luke 21, Jesus is preparing his disciples for the difficulties that they would face. He promises that, “not a hair of your head will perish,” despite the fact that some of them will be betrayed and put to death.
You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish.” (Luke 21:16-18 NIV)
The principle, and promise, of Psalm 91 is not that we can claim it to avoid suffering, but that we can take shelter under the wings of God. We can indeed find our refuge in him, but it is a refuge “in trouble” not from it. As we find our ultimate hope and security in Christ, we can live in uncertain days without fear. He is with us and is working for the good in our lives.
Yours In Christ,
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church
MAY 14, 2020
When I was a kid growing up, one of my parents’ frequent pieces of advice was, “Don’t let them upset you.” This advice often revolved around the older boys who seemed to enjoy teasing me and would often choose me last when picking teams. What my parents were teaching me, was that I was responsible for “how” I reacted. I had a choice. “Don’t fall into their trap; Keep your chin up;” and, “Go about your business.” Really good advice, looking back. In John 14, Jesus gives some similar advice to his disciples to prepare them for the fact that he would soon leave them.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14 NIV)
Did you catch his opening words? “Do not let your hearts be troubled”…
Jesus is saying we have a choice. While we do not control troubling circumstances, and we cannot control the choices and actions of others, bullies will at times try to make life difficult. One of the best pieces of advice that I read early on in this Covid19 pandemic was offered by Henry Cloud on a Facebook live event for church leaders. He encouraged us to make a list of the things creating stress, which are beyond our control. It is okay to complain about them and even grieve them, but “don’t let them control you.”
Instead, give them to God and focus on “what we can control,” which is how we respond. Jesus was telling his disciples something that we need to constantly remind ourselves of. Giving into fear and worry, is a choice. “Do not let your hearts be troubled” sounds a lot like what Jesus said in the sermon on the mount…
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)
The question we must ask ourselves is this: How am I allowing worries over the circumstances that I control, or the people I don’t control, rob me of experiencing God’s peace today? Why not identify those things and then give them to God? As one of Jesus' closest followers, Peter, would later write…
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)
As men, too often we feel that carrying the weight of worry is being responsible. It is not. As Jesus said in John 14, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” In other words, trust me. Carrying around a troubled heart is not a sign of responsibility or concern, but a lack of faith.
Praying you will continue to identify the source of your worries, and as you do, give to God those you have no control over. That’s not only responsible, it’s being obedient to Christ’s command:
Do not let your heart by troubled, believe in God, believe also in me.
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church
MAY 7, 2020
How has COVID-19 affected your daily routine? If you are like me, the changes have been numerous and not all to my liking. For example, I miss seeing my coworkers and the separation of defined spaces for work and home. Working from home has blurred these distinctions. For some of you, this is not something new. I find myself changing clothes at the end of the “work day” to help distinguish when I am working or not (it seems to help). I could go on, but I will spare you my list of complaints and instead mention one of the things I am doing now that I find very enjoyable. For the record, it’s not zoom calls.
I have started listening to books while I jog. Yes, I have started jogging again since the pool has been closed. While I have listened to podcasts over the years, this is a new thing for me. I enjoy non-fiction and my most recent books have been autobiographies. Two of the autobiographies were read by the author themselves, which seemed to add an even more personal dimension to the message. There is something about hearing the author read their “own words” in their “own voice” that makes it seem like they are speaking directly to me. Which raises a question: Is this how I approach the Bible? Do I realize that it is God who is speaking—directly to me?
If not, why not? The Bible is God’s personal revelation to each of us.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT)
While the individual books of the Bible reflect the life, experience, personality, and voice of the writer—each were inspired and directed by God. It is not just their words, but is His word.
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires." (Hebrews 4:12 NLT)
Did you catch the last statement? Unlike the biographies I have listened to, God’s word penetrates and reveals what is in my heart. It serves as a mirror to show me what is going on inside. As I learn to recognize the voice of God in scripture, I will sense a greater connection with Him and greater clarity on how he would have me behave.
Unlike the audible books on my iPhone, I know that God desires for me to know him personally. During these crazy days where many voices compete for our attention, it is my prayer that you will carve out time daily to read and reflect on scripture, asking God to speak to you. As you do so, you will learn to listen to his voice as it is delivered through the prophets and writers of scripture. My daily practice is to start each morning with a short reading from scripture and a good cup of coffee. I keep a journal nearby and write down what I sense him saying to me for that day. I want to encourage you to do the same.
Yours in Christ,
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church
APRIL 30, 2020
The Coronavirus Pandemic has impacted so many facets of life in such a relatively short period of time. Besides the natural fear associated with a virus that can kill you, our work, finances, routines, social interactions and normal schedules have been and are being profoundly impacted. I don’t know about you, but I for one - like a predictable schedule. When sudden and profound change is forced upon me, I don’t like it. In fact, I find myself wanting a break.
One of the ways I find myself escaping is to turn to my phone to check the latest news or to be distracted or entertained. Smart phones are designed to keep you engaged. Maybe you reach for your phone to check e-mail or texts and while you are there, check Facebook as well. One article I read states that on average, we check our phones once every 6 ½ minutes. Why so often?
For some of us it is just a habit. For others it is a reflection of the desire to escape our current circumstances. I have a better option to offer.
“Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (1 Chronicles 16:11)
Notice, how the writer of scripture included the little word “continually.” Unlike the habitual checking of our phone, constantly reminding ourselves of God’s presence, power, and goodness in our lives brings contentment and peace. One of my mom’s favorite verses was Isaiah 26:3.
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!" (Isaiah 26:3)
Or as the Apostle Paul encourages us to do in Thessalonians chapter five.
“Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV)
Paul is encouraging us to develop “habitual gratitude” and Habitual prayer. I don’t know about you, but that means that I need to make prayer and praise more of a reflex in my life. Kind of like checking my phone. One thing that helps me is to set reminders on my phone. I have a couple, but probably need more. Another thing I have started doing when I check Facebook, is to pray for the friends whose posts I read. Doing this helps in a couple of ways. First, it snaps me out of mindlessly scrolling. Second, it reminds me that God has called me to something more than self-absorption and entertainment, but to love him and be a blessing to others.
Yours in Christ,
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church
APRIL 22, 2020
The movie “Ground Hog Day” featuring Bill Murray is one of my personal favorites. In the film, Bill Murray plays Phil Connors, a television weatherman who is forced to live the same day over and over again. Many of us feel like Phil Connors these days with shelter in place. If you are like me, you look forward to being able to eat at your favorite restaurant, go back to church, the gym, the movies, even the dentist. Maybe not the dentist… The truth is, we miss our regular routines. The question I want you to consider, is this: “What routines do you plan to carry over when “shelter in place” is lifted?” For many of us this season has removed many of the distractions and hindrances to daily Bible reading and prayer, family walks, or even engaging in worship (via livestream) more consistently.
I want to encourage you to establish and solidify daily and weekly practices that will continue to feed your soul and build your family life, once this lifts. Don’t assume returning to “life as normal” is God’s will for you. In Matthew eleven, Jesus invites us to “learn from Him”
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)
To learn from Jesus means to follow his example. This requires that we engage in the same activities Jesus did. When you see the phrase “as usual” it refers to something repeated. In other words, a habit.
“When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures." (Luke 4:16 NLT)
“Then, accompanied by the disciples, Jesus left the upstairs room and went as usual to the Mount of Olives. There he told them, “Pray that you will not give in to temptation.” (Luke 22:39-46 NLT)
Habits provide the underlying structure to life. What habits do you want to start during these days or continue over once this season passes? Jesus invites us to learn from him with the promise that by so doing we will find rest for our souls. The rest of Christ is found in the following of Christ.
Praying that you rediscover a better way of doing life during these days!
APRIL 15, 2020
How are you being 'sifted' these days?
In biblical days when a crop like wheat was harvested, the grain would be extracted through a process called winnowing, or sifting. The harvested wheat would be separated from the hull or chaff so that what was valuable could be harvested. The result would be that the wind would carry away the chaff leaving only the valuable grain left behind. In many ways, I believe that is what is happening during the Covid-19 pandemic. We are being forced to reevaluate our priorities and determine what is truly important to us.
For all of us, “sheltering in home” has necessitated the elimination of non-essential activities and forced us to spend time at home. A lot of time at home. For many of us, we have had to learn new work and school patterns. We are eating meals at home and taking walks with our families. Organized sports have stopped, allowing us to throw the frisbee, play board games and learn to cook new recipes with our spouse or children. Many of us are rediscovering some things that were buried under the category of “when things settle down”… Things have settled down. We have time to read the Bible and pray. We have time to talk with our spouse and children.
While there are many things that we miss during these days, it is my prayer that we will rediscover the important things that we neglected prior to Covid19. It is my prayer that on the other side of shelter in place, each of us would have greater clarity on the “chaff” in our lives and relationships, and what is truly “grain.” One of the passages that helps me determine what is good in life from what is best, is Philippians 4:8.
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
Think about what you currently miss from our “normal lives” and ask yourself “why?” What were the time-consuming activities that seem much less urgent and important these days? What were the “life-giving” ones that should be resumed? It is my prayer that God is using these days as a “reset” … that our hearts and our schedules will reflect what he is teaching us about what is important.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33 NIV)
Yours in Christ,
Dr. Chuck Martin
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church
APRIL 9, 2020
Today is Maundy Thursday. If you are like me and did not grow up in a liturgical church, the word Maundy is not one you are familiar with. It comes from the Latin word “to command” and reminds us of the command Jesus gave his disciples on their last night together. As the disciples gathered to celebrate what would be their last meal together, none of them were willing to serve the others and perform the menial task of “foot washing.”
“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:1)
This must have been embarrassing to the disciples as they realized that one of them should have volunteered for the task. Jesus used this opportunity to teach them about servant leadership. Some churches practice foot washing on the day before Good Friday as a way to identify with Jesus and practice humility. If you have ever washed someone’s feet or had your feet washed, it is a very personal and humbling act. More than the specific action, Jesus was demonstrating the attitude of humility that God is looking for in us. Peter initially resisted allowing Jesus to wash his feet, but later wrote these words in 1 Peter chapter 5.
“...In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6 NIV)
As we move towards Good Friday and Easter, I want to encourage you to reflect on the humility and sacrifice of Jesus. When you hear the term “Maundy Thursday” remember His object lesson of service.
“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:12-19 NIV)
Now for the command. Immediately following the object lesson, Jesus gave his disciples and us a command.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV)
Jesus could have said that his followers would be identified by any number of religious activities or practices such as prayer, attending worship, or even giving. He didn’t. Each of these can be practiced with wrong motives and a proud heart. Instead he gave us a moving example of humble service and reminded us that although man looks at outward appearances, God looks on the heart. (1 Sam 16:7) May God produce a renewed love for Him and others as we reflect on His great love for us.
Looking forward to Easter!
Dr. Chuck Martin
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church
APRIL 1, 2020
King David asks a great question in the opening verse of Psalm 27.
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27 ESV)
If you are like me, it seems that there is a lot to be fearful of during this Pandemic. Recent projections of the number of people that might contract and possibly die from COVID 19 are a sober reminder of the uncertainty of today. Yet, I am reminded that previous generations faced dangers no less daunting. My parents, like the generation of C.S. Lewis, faced the threat of Nazi Germany and nuclear holocaust during the cold war. Lewis wrote of the fear of his day and reminded his generation that human life has always faced uncertainty and danger. (Insert COVID 19/Pandemic for atomic bomb/atomic age as you read this excerpt.)
“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb (COVID 19). “How are we to live in an atomic age (Pandemic)?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb (COVID 19) was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb (COVID 19), let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs (viruses). They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
The point Lewis was making is that the danger of our day is not something new to life on this planet. Life has always been uncertain and prone to disease and disaster. Unfortunately, it is the nature of living in a fallen world affected by the curse of sin. Death is a certainty, no matter our current circumstances. It’s not if, but rather when and how each of us will die. This does not mean that we have to live dominated by fear. Living in fear, no matter the age in which we live, is no way to live. God has not given us a spirit of fear, and while the threats are real and must be taken seriously, we do not need to live in constant fear.
“...for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7 ESV)
It is my prayer that you will give your fears and anxious thoughts to God and ask that he replace them with his peace. These are uncertain days, but so were the days of Paul. I am reminded of the words he wrote in Romans 8 to remind us of God’s presence and love in times of uncertainty.
“ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?... (you can add COVID 19) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39 ESV)
So do as Paul challenges us to do in Philippians, as he writes from prison.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)
Praying that you will experience his peace in the midst of these trying days.
Yours in Christ,
Dr. Chuck Martin
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church
MARCH 25, 2020
So much has changed in the last couple of weeks to upset our sense of “normal.” Two weeks ago Kim and I were enjoying a long anticipated Spring Break trip to see our daughter Emily in Gottingen Germany. I started getting messages asking if we were okay and on our way back to Texas. As I checked news on my phone, I discovered that President Trump was closing the country to flights from Europe. Thankfully, the travel ban did not include US citizens. Needless to say, last Wednesday began a cascade of information and decisions that none of us anticipated needing to make.
Now many or most of us find ourselves working from home under “shelter in place” navigating a myriad of uncertainties associated with Coronavirus. We have never experienced anything quite like this pandemic. Covid19 has brought unprecedented global change in ways we could not foresee. None of us can set a clear timeline for when we will resume something approaching “normal.” This is our current reality.
Thankfully, God is with us and for us, even in this… or especially in times like this. We did not choose this trial, but we can choose how we will respond. I am reminded of the words of Jim Stockdale, an American General captured during the Vietnam War. He was held prisoner for seven years undergoing torture, isolation and mental and physical brutality. He is known for something called the “Stockdale Paradox” which says that great leadership embraces both the real and the ideal. In other words, it deals with reality, but does not lose hope.
I am also reminded of the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 4.
“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1NIV)
Did you catch that…Paul is writing from prison in circumstances not of his choosing and beyond his control, but he did not lose heart. He goes on to write:
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. ” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9 NIV)
He is realistic about the difficulties. He admits that he doesn’t have all the answers and gives a realistic assessment of his situation. He embraces REALISM, yet he does not give into despair or depression.
He affirms that God’s power is at work in his situation. Can you? One of the many byproducts of our current situation is that families are reconnecting. I see more of my neighbors walking together, eating meals at home. Doing life more closely as a family. Priorities are being re-examined. With the loss of some of the things that distract us, many of us are listening to God with “ears that hear” (as Jesus was fond of saying in the Gospels). God has our attention. It is my prayer that he will increasingly have more of our hearts. Most of us are seeing the importance of community with greater clarity these days. We miss our friends, church community and normal social interactions. This is a good reminder that God has made us for connection with Him and each other.
Paul ends this great passage with the following words:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)
WE DO NOT LOSE HEART. We see our current challenges with realism, but also realize that they are temporary. Paul chooses to FIX his eyes on Christ, and not the circumstances beyond his control. In other words, he doesn’t lose hope.
I challenge you to respond as Paul. Cast your cares on God. Admit the difficulty of the circumstances but also look up. God is with you and for you and will give you his strength. Isaiah 41:10 has become one of my favorite verses in recent days.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)
So deal with today’s challenges realistically without losing Hope. God is with us, and we are going to get through this! Hope to be together again sooner versus later!
Yours in Christ,
Dr. Chuck Martin
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church
MARCH 18, 2020
It is day four of my self-quarantine after returning from Germany to see my daughter. As I reflect on how the world has been turned upside down in recent days, it is amazing that something microscopic like a virus can literally disrupt the world. We have all become acutely aware of this tiny microbe called “Coronavirus.” In fact, the term coronavirus is the most searched word in the world, right now. As we take extreme and appropriate action to halt the spread of this virus, I pray that we will all look for opportunities to spread a different kind of virus. The viral message called the Gospel of Jesus. Rather than bringing death, it brings life and proclaims the good news that we are saved by grace and not by works.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17 NIV)
I encourage you to choose faith over fear. Cast your cares and uncertainty on God. He has not moved. His promises stand firm. I am reminded of Jesus’ words to his disciples in the upper room.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27 NIV)
I encourage you to be smart, follow appropriate directives. Wash your hands. Practice social distancing, but also look for opportunities to spread a different kind of virus, the hope of the gospel of Jesus!
The words of C.S. Lewis come to mind. “Jesus came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life found only in Him — by what I call the "good infection." [C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity]
May our faith in Jesus thrive and become increasingly infectious during these crazy days!
Yours in Christ,
Dr. Chuck Martin
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church
P.S. If you do not have a daily devotion that you are currently doing, join me for a six day study called Trust Through Trial by Ryan Meadows. It's on the You Version Bible app. Here is the link: https://my.bible.com/reading-plans/14570-trust-through-the-trials/
MARCH 12, 2020
I am visiting my daughter Emily this week (Spring Break) in Frankfurt, Germany. While I am very proud of our girl, Kim and I both wish she were living on this side of the pond. Letting go as a parent is another reminder that we are not in control. Our children are on loan. They are entrusted to us, but ultimately not controlled by us… at least beyond the early years.
That being the case, I want to encourage those of you to realize you have a window of opportunity with your kids. You have a season to set a credible example of faith and lay a foundation with your child. A season to talk about God and his place in your life, while they are impressionable. The season to build a heart connection with your kids is shorter than you think. I discovered that walks together, drive time (ferrying Emily to classes and practices) and our nightly “tuck ins” were the best time to talk to Emily about life. She is a deep thinker and loves discussing theology and philosophy, which is fun for me. We see a beautiful picture of what this can look like from Moses’ challenge in Deuteronomy 6.
“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.’ (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 NLT)
If you will build trust and establish a heart connection with your child, then when they are wrestling with the big issues of life, you will be someone they turn to. Last week, as I talked with Emily about our time together this week, she let me know some of the things she is wrestling with in life. More than any sights we will see in Frankfurt or Berlin, I look forward to talking with my daughter about life. Life is short, men. Figure out how to connect with each of your children. You will be glad you did.
Dr. Chuck Martin
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church
FEBRUARY 27, 2020
A message from Pastor Chuck:
I thoroughly enjoyed our time together Sunday night, and appreciate your willingness to engage via weekly text. I am convinced that we are experiencing something called “an epidemic of loneliness” in our culture. This is especially true among men. (Check out this short article: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/church-respond-loneliness-epidemic/).
Loneliness is an unsurprising symptom of our individualistic society. Yet, we all need male friends, and most specifically---male friends who are striving to follow Jesus. That is why our time together Sunday night felt so refreshing. I want to encourage you to reach out to another Christian man before Monday and set a breakfast or lunch for the purpose of encouraging each other.
"As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend." (Proverbs 27:17 NLT)
What I hope to do via this text, is send a weekly challenge or word of encouragement. This may include a scripture that spoke to me, an article that made me think, and sometimes a prayer request that is important to me.
One more thing, if you do not have a daily devotion that you are currently involved with, I want to invite you to join me for a seven day men’s study through You Version called “Play the Man” by Mark Batterson. That’s right. 7 days. Anyone can do seven days. Here is the link to join me. https://bible.com/p/23941936/c4e0a9cc184ddf511bb82bc25fd3d27c
If you have any problems with above links, simply copy and paste the URL into your internet browser. And if you have any other questions about how to join the study, please shoot me an email at [email protected].
Dr. Chuck Martin
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church
MARCH 5, 2020
Life has a way of interrupting the illusion that we are in control. For many of us, (self-included) this is an unwelcome reality. Over the past week, I have been confronted with this reality more than once. Coronavirus for example, the fears of a possible pandemic affecting large gatherings of people… Easter comes to mind. As men, we do our best to plan and prepare as (James instructs us) with the understanding that life is not really in our control.
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil" (James 4:13-16 NIV)
I draw comfort in the fact that although life is not in my control, it does not mean that God is not in control. We need not be paralyzed with fear or be stuck in a paralysis of indecision. God is with us and for us. Humbly take your plans and requests before God and act with the assurance that He is with you and will give you the wisdom and grace to adjust as needed.
In the parable of the talents, Jesus chastised the one who received one talent for making excuses rather than taking prudent action.
[The Parable of the Talents] “For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:14-30 ESV)
The point of the parable is that life is a gift to steward. We don’t control the future, but we are responsible for doing something with what God has given us. Don’t talk yourself out of doing what God leads you to do. Have the hard conversation, take the risk, share your faith, invite that co-worker to church, invest well. It’s all in His hands, anyway. Therefore, we are praying for, planning for, and working towards having 3,000 people join us for Easter this year. Will you join me in praying and inviting towards that end?
If so, would you comment below or email me at [email protected] to let me know?
Dr. Chuck Martin
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church
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